The dust has settled since the most memorable 4th of July in the Minnesota Wild’s short history, and I can’t help but reflect on how everything transpired. It really reminds me of when LeBron James and Chris Bosh went to the Miami Heat in 2010. Isn’t what Zach Parise and Ryan Suter did just a mirror image of the Miami Heat two years ago? The answer to my painfully sarcastic question is undoubtedly, no. I have heard people ask me that question, and I’ve read articles on the interweb relating our beloved Minnesota Wild with the Miami Heat. I die a little inside when I am presented with this flawed comparison.
First of all, the Heat were only four years removed from being the reigning champions. They had been a consistent playoff participant. Granted, they didn’t do much in the playoffs, but at least they could make it. They already had a star in Dwyane Wade, and they were only a couple missing pieces away from being a dominant team. Also, the NBA is much different than the NHL. The NBA isn’t as much of a team sport, and you don’t depend on as many key players. It makes a bigger impact to add one superstar to an NBA team than it does to add one superstar to an NHL team.
I am not afraid to express my distaste for LeBron James. He is a megalomaniacal, narcissistic, media whore. The only thing more outrageous than having the infamous “The Decision” special on ESPN was the nearly 10 million people that tuned in to stroke LeBron’s ego for him.
While James had to air a special to proclaim where he was “taking his talents” to, Parise and Suter went about things just as every other athlete does, privately. Prior to July 4th, Parise addressed a couple reporters in Toronto to inform them that he was still deciding which team would be the best fit for him, and then he flew to Minnesota to discuss things further with his family. After a couple days – which felt like an eternity for some of us – the news broke about the Wild landing the two most coveted free agents of the off-season. In short, things unfolded a little differently.
I love Parise, and I think Suter will be a great addition to our squad, but I am not naïve enough to think that Parise is as much of game changer as James. LeBron is arguably the most talented basketball player in the world right now. Nobody is making the same claim about Zach or Ryan in their respective sport, nor should they. I personally think it would be safe to say that they are say top five or six in their particular position, which is great, don’t get me wrong. It just isn’t the same as LeBron.
Parise also left a team – the New Jersey Devils – that was two wins away from winning the Cup to go to a team that hasn’t even made the playoffs since 2008. He left a team that was obviously gifted and had some great players, such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur. Parise came home. James left his home to go to a team with a lot of promise; a team under supervision of Pat Riley mind you, and a team with other stars. And he left home with a proverbial middle finger to his hometown fans with his big TV special. James took the easy way out; a shortcut to a championship.
Now to backtrack a tad in an attempt to be mildly fair. James was a free agent, and no matter how much anyone dislikes it, he had every right to go to whatever team that wanted him. It was his decision, and no one else’s. He just did it in a way that left a bitter taste in our mouths. For a lot of us, including myself, it is very hard to cleanse our pallet of that taste.
Parise went a much more noble route. He could have stayed in New Jersey. He could have gone to Pittsburgh to play with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which would have been LeBron James’ move if he was a hockey player. He chose to go to a small market team with no superstar. Parise and Suter didn’t go with a quick fix. They did the smart thing and thought about the long run, which is obviously the thought process to have when you sign a 13 year deal. As appealing as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, or New York might be for the next couple years, they came to Minnesota, where a team could be built around them. Parise and Suter have all the right qualities to be the game changers the Wild most desperately needs. Maybe they’ll regret their decision down the road. I don’t think they will. And if it pays off, it will be a feel good story about how two great players chose less money to go to a less attractive destination to make the Wild more attractive to future free agents.